Keshet International, the company behind the original Israeli version of Homeland, has put down stakes in the UK. The distribution arm of Keshet Media Group has hired former Sky and La Plante Productions exec Sara Johnson as executive producer and head of co-productions for scripted fare. Former Shed Media exec and Channel 4 drama editor Lee Mason is also boarding as development producer. The success of Homeland (based on Keshet’s Prisoners Of War) has increased the Israeli company’s profile in the past year. Its recent U.S. sales include M.I.C.E., a spy drama based on Keshet’s Gordin Cell that Peter Berg is writing and directing at NBC; Tribe, to be adapted by Greg Malins for ABC and based on comedy Your Family Or Mine; and Mothers Day, a comedy that Julie Rottenberg and Elisa Zuritsky (Sex And The City) are writing for CBS. Keshet’s managing director Alon Shtruzman said of the move into Britain: “In light of the growing success of our formats worldwide, it’s only natural for Keshet to take a bigger position on its own shows. We are now building teams in London and Los Angeles in order to drive our productions in the UK and the U.S., independently or with partners.”
EXCLUSIVE: Top Israeli broadcaster Keshet, on whose format Showtime’s Emmy-winning drama Homeland is based, has added to a strong broadcast selling season with Mother’s Day, a comedy project at CBS based on an Israeli series. Smash co-executive producers Julie Rottenberg and Elisa Zuritsky will write the adaptation. It centers on 40-year-old Ella who, in order to successfully navigate through the demanding life of being a mother of three, a lover, a friend and a career woman, constantly lies her way out of and into situations — little lies, big lies, white and at times not-so-white lies.
The original series, which premiered on Keshet’s Channel 2 in August, was created by Daniela London-Dekel and Dana Eden, written by London-Dekel and produced by Eden’s Eden Prods. (Watch the English-language trailer below.) Rottenberg and Zuritsky executive produce the CBS version with London-Dekel, Eden and Keshet’s CEO Avi Nir and head of programming Ran Telem. Mother’s Day is produced by CBS TV Studios, which has optioned the format rights from Keshet.
Global Showbiz Briefs: BBC Probe, Keshet Sells ‘Fair & Square’, ‘Father’s Day’ Banned, Quickflix Seeks Quick Cash
BBC Inquiry To Ramp Up Next Week
As incoming New York Times Company CEO Mark Thompson is given the going over by staff at the newspaper who have questioned his involvement in the Jimmy Savile scandal, the BBC’s internal inquiry in the contentious cancellation of its Newsnight investigation will start interviewing key players next week. They include the editor of the program, Peter Rippon, who killed a probe into Savile’s impropriety that was set to air in December last year. He reported to Helen Boaden, director of BBC News, and George Entwistle, the new BBC director general who was head of television at the time. Both are expected to face tough questions from Nick Pollard, the former head of Sky News who is in charge of the inquiry. They’ll be joined by the Newsnight journalists who led the investigation into Savile, some of whom blew the whistle on the odd decision-making in a report on BBC current affairs program Panorama last week. Meanwhile, rival broadcaster ITV, which aired a program finally revealing the allegations against Savile at the start of October, is planning further revelations about the late Top Of The Pops host. A second report will be fronted by Mark Williams-Thomas, the former detective who led the original show. It’ll air at the end of November, as the Pollard inquiry is expected to be publishing its findings. – Joe Utichi
DNI Makes Deena Edwards SVP Global Branded Solutions
Discovery Networks International has named Deena Edwards SVP of global branded solutions. Edwards is an 18-year Discovery veteran who has worked in everything from sales to marketing and education. In 2010, she was promoted to SVP of integrated content for Discovery Channel and Science Channel. Her new role will see her spearhead the construction of global and regional branded entertainment solutions for advertising clients across original productions, digital media and Discovery Enterprises Intl. She’s based at Discovery HQ in Silver Spring, MD.
NBC has closed a deal for a put pilot commitment to M.I.C.E., a drama from Peter Berg and Sarah Aubrey’s Film 44 based on the Israeli format The Gordin Cell. Berg is set to write and direct the pilot in his first pilot-writing effort since Friday Night Lights. Universal TV, where Film 44 is based, will produce with Israeli company Keshet Media Group, which is behind the original series, along with Israeli satcaster YES, which airs it, and Tedy Prods, which produces it.
The deal comes after a couple of months of negotiations among the parties involved in M.I.C.E., whose title is an acronym for Money, Ideology, Coercion and Ego, used to understand the motives of spies in betraying their countries. Gordin Cell revolves around the Gordin family and centers on Israeli-born Eyal Gordin, a decorated Israeli Air Force officer in a high-security post who loves his country and family. His parents Michael and Diana, Grandmother Nina and elder sister Natalia emigrated from the USSR in 1990. Eyal has no idea that his parents were Russian spies. When Miki and Diana’s former handler appears one day, demanding that they recruit their son into espionage activity (watch the scene below with English subtitles), Eyal faces an impossible dilemma: his cooperation with Russian intelligence determines his family’s fate, while his dedication to Israel’s homeland security tests his family allegiance. His country, or his family… who will he choose to betray? Berg said the original plot “lands itself very easily to an American reinvention” as a drama set in the U.S. “There are still real issues between the U.S. and Russia — they’re spying on us, we’re spying on them.”
Berg will executive produce M.I.C.E. with Aubrey; Avi Nir, CEO of Keshet; Ron Lesham and Amit Cohen, who developed the original series; YES’ Yona Wiesenthal; and Giora Yahalom. “We at Keshet are grateful to have this opportunity, along with Peter and NBC, to tell the M.I.C.E. story to the American audiences,” Nir said.